In the name of the law

A Bush and a Clinton are running for President of the USA. A Jurassic Park movie is topping the US Box Office. And a Terminator movie is due out next month. Tell me again: what year are we in? I laughed out loud when I read this post on Facebook last week as I, too, am a little lost as to whether we’re moving forward or backward.

I’m finding it increasingly difficult to figure out what is actually true and what simply has an element of truth in it or indeed no truth at all. And in Hungary, even speaking the language often doesn’t help.  While I was relieved to read that the country is finally adopting zero tolerance for all things anti-Semitic, I’m more than a tad disconcerted about us building a fence along the border with Serbia. Just what the world needs – another wall. But this week, I don’t have the bandwidth to deal with either as my mind is occupied with much more trivial things.

Did you know that in the Philippines, it’s possible to be charged with the crime of ‘unjust vexation’?  [I wouldn’t last very long there.] Or that in Thailand, it’s illegal to step on the national currency? And in China, it’s illegal for adult children not to visit their parents ‘often’? [I wonder who defines ‘often’.] In France, apparently, it’s illegal to marry a dead person. [Glad that’s been clarified.] In Britain, it’s illegal to operate on a cow if you’re intoxicated. Samoa has made it illegal for a husband to forget his wife’s birthday. In Switzerland, there’s said to be a law on the books making it illegal to flush a toilet after 10pm. [?] But the best of all – in Ireland, students of Trinity College may call for a glass of wine during their exams. [Breathe new life into that one, I say.]

skydivingThe United States of America is a great country, one I’m very fond of. It, too, has its share of statutory senselessness. In Florida, a divorced or widowed woman cannot skydive on a Sunday afternoon. In Pennsylvania, it is illegal to tie a dollar bill to a string on the ground and pull it away when someone tries to pick it up. [What else to do on a wet and dreary Sunday afternoon as when you’re not skydiving?] In Florida, you can’t fart in a public place on a Thursday, after 6pm, which suggests that at any other time in the week you can let it rip. In Kentucky, a woman can’t remarry the same man more than three times. And in Iowa, men with moustaches can’t kiss women in public.

But why my fixation with ridiculous laws languishing in the statute books but never enforced? [Admittedly, the source of many of these outlandish laws is dubious at best.] This week, I heard of a 2013 Hungarian law (yep – 2013, not 1813 or 1913, so pretty recent) that boggles the mind. Apparently, if I have a visitor who stays overnight, a visitor who doesn’t normally reside in my municipality (for example, a friend visiting from Ireland), they (or I) am supposed to pay the local guest tax. I know my Hungarian isn’t up to much, and there’s always the possibility that I’m wrong, but check it out for yourself:  Law reference 30 §(1).  I wonder who’s responsible for this little gem and whether they pay for their visitors or install them in a hotel.  As the Greek playwright, Sophocles, posited ‘nobody has a more sacred obligation to obey the law than those who make the law’.

First published in the Budapest Times 26 June 2015